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Challenging Monolithic Instruction in North America

Technology rich curriculum activities at Skowhegan Area Middle School (ME)Since this post is about a a book I am reading throughout chapter four, at this point, I should include a picture or video of the Disrupting Class' book but, be generous, and allow me to include in place a video of what it might be into a few years the new schools in the United Sates. The subtitle of book says How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, however experiences shown in the book are part of the U.S. and thematic is about America disruption of traditional school.

I'm writing this very inadequate tribute to change in education based on Clayton M. Christensen's book and coauthors Horn and Johnson. When I was preparing to become a teacher one of the most critics I had received from my professors was on Alliance for Progress and how this had been challenged the education in Latin America. Our governments weren't ready to introduce technology in schools and it was seen as an intrusion of the region's interests. Today, things have changed and the internet has lift barriers not only of understanding but learning, as well.

Here in the United States, school has been lately challenged because critics are saying that even when classrrooms are equipped with computers, international standards of testing are being unfavorable to American students. Christensen using what most of educators don't like much, have education linked to industry processes, has teamed with two other great people to apply his Innovation Theories on the educational industry (as the modeling Chirstensen uses to validate his disrupting theory of changing schools in America).

A short version of the Innovator's Dilema is: "the logical decisions that management makes in order to sustain success ultimately are the same reasons they lose their positions of leadership (thus the dilemma). That's because once established, most technologies over time foster improved performance -- these are sustaining technologies. But occasionally these sustaining technologies are up-ended by disruptive technologies. In many cases the disruptive technologies actually had worse performance in the near-term and generally underperformed the sustaining technologies in the mainstream market, so these are not 'break-throughs' in the performance sense. But they are generally cheaper, quicker, smaller, and simpler than the existing competition -- they concentrate on a few features that new fringe customers heavily desire and they ultimately disrupt the status quo marketplace" Learning Technology [http://saulnier.typepad.com]

So, taking a cue from Bill Gates' 2005 critique of the American school system, Clayton applies his theory of disruptive innovation to a much-needed evolution in educational technologies-offering new opportunities and challenges for the business community.

Many of us having been proclaiming for years that the 'sky is falling’ on traditional models of instructional delivery, but Christensen uses his plotting theory to provide a logarithmic graph (vertical axis needs to be arranged -so that .0001, .001,.01,.1, 1.0and 10.0 are all equidistant) postulating that by the year 2019 student centric technologies will displace over 50% of classroom instruction. I love his statistical inferences, and adds:"The S-curves are sometimes steep; other times they are gradual. But disruptions almost always follow this pattern: the initial substitution pace is slow; the it steepens dramatically; and, finally, it asymptotically approaches 100 percent of the market" (p. 96)

Online courses can give students more choices, for starters. Many schools in the US, especially rural schools (as Skowhegan School in ME), don’t have enough students to fill advanced math and science courses or to offer multiple choices for foreign languages. Those proposed, disruptional online courses will allow students in those schools to take subjects that simply wouldn’t be available to them otherwise, seems to agree Christy Tucker.

We are about to start reading chapter 5 and surely the conclusions of this books as ourselves are going to be definitely controversial and will undoubtedly upset some. What is great on this books is the introduction of the innovation concept even when this is a borrowed concept from industry. We do agree with statements made by author of Disrupting Class, and as they, themselves recognize it's something that wouldn't happen in the overnight, since we still have many myth to destroy ( Online teaching is mostly good for introductory or low level courses) and a whole bunch of work to do.

The following is a question still hasn't been answered: Do we not already have Web 2.0 tools that can be used in combination with one another to create an environment where this kind of user-developed product can be created and shared?

Also to read:

- Will Technology save education?
- Disrupting Class, Today.
- When students design their own learning.
- Comparing Finn and American Education.
- Service Oriented Virtual Learning Enviroment.
Florida: Tecnology Integration Matrix.

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  1. Interesting blog post -- fascinating about the experience outside the U.S., too. Your last question is also interesting and one I hope we went some measure toward answering in Chapter 5 -- the role of Web 2.0 that is. That said, there are already some tools out there to be sure, but many are still pretty primitive. One resource that would be interesting to see if education user networks could use might be the MediaGrid (otherwise known as Immersive Education). Thoughts?

  2. @MHorn - Thanks for your comments and the heads up. We will be reading more on MediaGrid to comment and try to answer to your 'any thoughts'